June 28, 2010

Obama Making BP Pay Is Good Government, and That’s Why Republicans Are Freaking Out

I really couldn’t agree more with this post. I actually heard someone on the radio expecting sympathy from a Republican candidate for office, claiming that somehow the oil spill in the gulf is the fault of the EPA and President Obama – clearly a Tea Partier with more opinions than facts – who got shut down by their so-called friend.

Even Republicans who aren’t necessarily on the far right will tell you that making BP pay for the spill in the gulf is exactly what America should be doing – because the alternative, making the taxpayer pay for the damage, is unacceptable on any front. However, even with Republicans like Joe Barton groveling to BP and unintentionally exposing the Republican pro-business and anti-American platform, none of them want to be on the record stating that they’d rather oil spill into the gulf for decades, putting Americans out of work, food supplies and health at risk, and let the oil industry off with a slap on the wrist and force the American taxpayer to foot the bill (or more likely just go into debt via deficit spending.)

What President Obama is doing here – by forcing BP to get in there and clean up their own mess, even if it’s messy and takes a long time and costs BP a lot of money – is the right thing to do. We can debate whether everyone jumped on the problem fast enough (and I think that’s a good debate to have, not necessarily in a finger-pointing way, but definitely in a “do we really want this risk in our energy profile, what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again” kind of way) till we’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t stop the oil from gushing and it won’t pay back the people whose lives and livelihoods have been lost because of the spill.

And the fact that President Obama is doing what’s right for the situation is what terrifies Republicans so much – he’s managing this crisis the best way any American President possibly could – and while that doesn’t mean that he or anyone else can just slip underwater and plug up the leak, he is taking BP to task for their mistakes, dedicating resources to the cleanup effort (no matter how much Bobby Jindall whines) and he’s riding BP every day until they get this taken care of and start paying claims to the people who need the money.

Last week, the nation witnessed an act of good governance when the Obama administration put the full-court press on oil giant BP to set aside $20 billion in assets to compensate the thousands of Americans whose livelihoods — and in some cases, lives — are being devastated by the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. It was an example of exactly what government is supposed to do; whatever it can, within the limits of the law, to protect its citizens’ interests.

Team Obama was shrewd to get a fund set up now, with the nation’s outrage focused on the calamity, rather than allow the company’s army of lawyers to drag a settlement through the courts for years. The agreement, entered into voluntarily by BP, ensures that the firm can’t escape legal judgments by paying out all of its current profits as shareholder dividends and then claiming insolvency.

The fund is about the equivalent of a year of BP’s profits — the Associated Press called the sum “a drop in a very large bucket” for the company, and reported that BP could raise the cash “without batting an eye.” It will be administered by an independent third party — the same administrator who handled billions of dollars worth of claims stemming from the attacks of 9/11. And President Obama secured it using little more than his bully pulpit and the pressure it allowed him to put on BP execs.

But here’s the clincher that I think is an essential piece:

The fact that applying pressure to a corporation whose risky cost-cutting resulted in what may prove to be the worst man-made disaster in history is seen as an act of government overreach says a lot about how deep down the rabbit hole of corporate propaganda we’ve gone since the Reagan/Thatcher “revolution.” Whereas at one time analysts warned of governments nationalizing firms or distorting the market with rigid price controls, we’ve now come to a point where a strongly worded letter or a few harsh words are enough to elicit mainstream hand-wringing on behalf of delicate multinational corporations like BP.

Exactly. Joshua Holland takes more than just the Republicans to task over this, he also rides the media that’s in their pockets for coming to the defense of the company and opposing any strong language or talk by the Obama Administration. While it’s likely that those elements of the media are simply in the pockets of the oil industry, it’s also likely that their fear that the President is doing the right thing and looking good in the process that makes them whine so much.

Frankly, if any President had done anything differently, there would be the same questions about the beginning, but if President Obama had laid off of BP and allowed them to voluntarily pay claims that they felt were appropriate (like the insurance industry post-Katrina; thanks to George W. Bush) there would be outcry about the people of the Gulf region being not just out of work but with no way to recover their lost income and livelihoods, which would quickly dovetail into the Republican’s head-in-the-sand complaints about job growth (as in, they admit it’s a problem, but have no ideas to do anything about it and nothing to say aside from “The President should do more about jobs.”)

Holland then goes into why putting the squeeze on BP was the right thing to do, especially by looking back at the way Exxon managed to slither its way out of paying the appropriate damages for the spill they caused with the Exxon Valdez. It’s a good historical story for an America with very short memories. He concludes:

As it stands, getting BP to set aside a year’s profits to pay for some of the damage the firm has done in the Gulf of Mexico, using nothing more expansive than the power of persuasion, is simply good governance in action. People died, many others’ livelihoods have been ruined, and a foreign corporation that has no legal obligation to pay more than $75 million in damages will do so nonetheless.

Only someone deeply steeped in an almost religious reverence for some mythically pure “free market” could see it any other way.

[ Obama Making BP Pay Is Good Government, and That’s Why Republicans and The Corporate Media Are Freaking Out ]
Source: AlterNet

1 Comment »

  1. […] This post was originally published at Not So Humble. Click here to read the post in its original habitat! […]

    Pingback by Obama Making BP Pay Is Good Government, and That’s Why Republicans Are Freaking Out « Not So Humble @ AlterNet — June 28, 2010 @ 1:41 pm

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